Cafe Racer vs. Scrambler Motorcycles in 2023: Riding Through Time
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Cafe racers, with a sport bike flair, have street tires and sleek, lower mounted aftermarket pipes for boosted track performance, whereas scramblers feature versatile dual-sport tires and signature higher-mounted exhausts, ideal for on- and off-road adventures, all while sharing a mean and lean character.
Besides, scramblers provide a more comfortable ride than cafe racers, yet each custom style offers a thrilling experience on the road and can be street legal. And no, scramblers aren’t dike bikes, which have a sole purpose of off-road use and lack street legal features like headlights, turn signals, and rear-view mirrors.
In summary, here is a simple table on cafe racer vs. scrambler:
How Much Does a MOTORCYCLE BUILD COST? | Scrambler / Cafe Racer
Granted, Cafe Racer vs. Scrambler Motorcycles Have Three Crucial Similarities
Despite their distinct builds, people also often mistake scramblers for cafe racers and vice versa. And rightfully so, because the duo also have the following in common:
Customized for Power and Agility
Originally, cafe racers and scramblers were made not just for looks but for actual races. Legend has it that the original cafe racers and scramblers were intended to race between different cafes around 1950s London, but while cafe racers took the paved route, scramblers, well, scrambled through all manner of terrain and trenches to get there via the shortest route.
Oh, those were the years, and those were the men, but nowadays almost anything goes–you can even buy a fully “customized” cafe racer right off the production line!
True cafe racers receive performance-oriented upgrades ranging from aftermarket air intakes to exhaust pipes. Scramblers on their part are designed to perform on- and off-road, getting dual-sport tires, a nifty suspension, a high seat height and clearance the signature high-set exhaust for water crossings. Both custom jobs should ideally result in a more powerful and maneuverable ride.
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Less Is Design Philosophy
The minimalist design language that goes into both custom motorcycle types is strikingly similar. Even today, factory models like the Triumph Scrambler 1200 shed considerable size and weight compared to the base model Bonneville T120. Similarly, the 2023 Kawasaki W800 Cafe looks like a 1960s legendary Kawi W1 that went to the gym.
Not only did it shed some considerable weight but also received a kicking vertical twin powerplant, providing boatloads of torque in the low-to-mid range, much like the sharp street scrambler 2023 Honda Dominator, which is a transformation from a bone stock 1992 Honda NX650 Dominator.
Come to think of it, the real reason most people can’t tell a cafe racer from a scrambler is that they have very similar silhouettes with a horizontal backbone running through the headlight. The front and rear wheels are of equal diameter and similar width. The seat follows the same bench-like contour. Notably, the scrambler doesn’t have the bum-stop, but the seat is slightly raised at the back.
And In Case You Are Wondering Both Can Be Street Legal
No, scramblers are not dirt bikes! Like cafe racers, with proper build certification or if factory made, scramblers can have all the features that make them allowable on the streets, including mirrors, head lights, turn signals, and license plate holders.
A Fork in the Road: Scramblers Lose the Bum Stop and Clip-on Handlebars in Favor of a Relaxed Riding Stance
Whether you’re building a cafe racer or scrambler, you’ll likely start with the same base type of sled, a standard motorcycle. But while cafe racers get a booster shot of performance and generous splash of sportiness and urbane style, it’s their scrambler alter ego that is more rideable for longer trips and off the beaten path. And thereof comes the following differences between the two custom styles:
It’s in the Purpose of Each Build
Cafe racers, are and were always intended to be, street versions of MotoGP bikes for drag racing, hence the rear-set footpegs to properly anchor the rider for the short bursts of insane acceleration and a bum stop to do just as it says, “keep the rider on the motorcycle.”
In contrast, a scrambler was always meant to be a go-anywhere dual-sport ride designed for comfortable rides over rough terrain. You’ll recognize one by the dual purpose tires and greater clearance to go over obstacles.
Riding Stance and Comfort
Both rides can cause severe saddle soreness over long distance rides, but the scrambler is a tad more comfortable with a relaxed riding stance compared to the tuck-and-roll position assumed by cafe racers. You also get a softer, roomier seat, and wider responsive handlebars.
The Height of the Bikes
Cafe racers have shorter, extremely light frames to keep them stable during high acceleration, whereas scramblers have a much taller seat height so that you can ride in a dirt bike stance. What the scrambler lacks in the mind-boggling acceleration of a cafe racer, it makes up for with the thrill of a responsive, taller thumper that delivers torque-y long strokes to shred the dirt.
Cafe racer seats are some of the meanest and leanest unforgiving motorcycle saddles you can ever seat on. A cafe racer is comfortable when you use it in the racing context but not much more. The bum stop, which integrates with the rear fender eliminator, is a definitive feature of the style as it continues the imaginary arc from the steering head and over the gas tank.
Scramblers are more generous in terms of real estate for your rear end and will have less butt-ache after miles of riding.
At the risk of repetition, cafe racers sport a fresh pair of street tires, whereas scramblers have knobby dual-sport tires for on-and-off-road shows. Cafe racer tires are also likely to have thinner profiles, which improves street handling quite a bit. Scramblers evolved through off-road races, and it’s not extreme if you fit enduro tires there, but perhaps it’s best to keep it two edged if you are building.
And the Suspension
Typical cafe racer body upgrade kits include stiffer shocks to handle better under heavy acceleration. Early builds would cross parts from different models to achieve optimal stability and rigidity because manufacturers had not yet jumped on the custom bandwagon and started churning out parts to customize their own stock bikes.
Cafe Racer vs. Scrambler Build: Pros and Cons to Help You Choose the Right Style for Your Motorcycle Project
With the right choice of the base model, a little elbow grease and a decent number of hours, you can convert just about any motorcycle into a cafe racer or scrambler. Take your time to do research and know which motorcycle is best suited for you. And as always, it’s cheaper and way easier to start with a ready to ride motorcycle.
If you’re a busy bum like me, you can just get a factory made retro styled bike and add a touch of style to it. But a ll things considered, making a cafe racer is much more involved than making a scrambler. But here are the merits and demerits of each build to help you make up your mind:
Whichever you pick, the road will not be easy but you will earn a lot of experience and a sense of accomplishment having built a motorcycle that is truly your own.
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Cafe Racers, Scramblers, Trackers, Brats and more. What’s the Difference?
Vintage motorbikes are, for good reason, all the rage at the moment. If you ask any true rider, the joy of a motorbike isn’t simply limited to the ride, it’s also the endless hours spent in the garage or driveway working on the metal baby.
But the resurgence of these motorcycle styles means that these days, you can even buy vintage bikes off-the-shelf. Just look at the Ducati Scrambler and Triumph Bonneville Bobber.
Determining the difference between the abundance of vintage bikes is not easy and as time goes on, the lines become blurred. It takes a trained eye to spot the difference. So let’s help you know your vintage motorcycles by pointing our some little (but key) differences and giving you a quick history of these beautiful machines.
CAFE RACERS VS SCRAMBLERS
From the above image, you’ll see that the key difference between a Cafe Racer and a Scrambler is the position of the exhausts.
The term ‘Cafe Racer’ originated in Post-War Britain in the 1960’s, where the bikes were used by rockers as quick rides between hang-out cafes.
The origins of Scramblers are quite similar, but whereas Cafe Racers would take the standard road course from cafe to cafe, Scramblers took the fastest route between two points. Even if that meant driving through fields of thick grass and mud. This is why the exhausts sit higher, allowing the rider to transition easily from road to off-road. Think of them as the first dual-sport riders.
With the development of off-road bikes, Scramblers are more of a look than a purpose built bike nowadays and as you’ll see from the pic below, they look pretty darn’ good.
Now you know the difference between a Cafe Racer and a Scrambler, it’s easier to determine a Tracker. Lighter than a Cafe Racer but not as durable as a Scrambler, the Tracker has a rich history that dates back to 1910. Think of a Tracker like the original dirt bike. The lighter frame enabled riders to slide sideways around tracks while maintaining speed. This is also why the exhausts sit high like a Scrambler.
Originally called a bob-job, Bobbers were a custom motorcycle, which involved stripping back the unnecessary (in the opinion of the rider) parts and components to lighten the motorcycle.
If you look at the above image, you’ll see that the Bobber is a similar shape to the Classic, just stripped back. Reducing the fenders and other components of the bike.
If you didn’t think the lines were blurred by now, this is where it gets really tricky. Brats originated in Japan and are in short, a trimmed down version of the Cafe Racer. Think of it like a cross between a Cafe Racer and a Bobber. They’re generally dark, low, mean and cheap.
The name comes from the Tokyo shop that started it all, Go Takamine’s Brat Style. Is there any higher honour than having your design become a style’s name?
The problem with Cafe Racers
Many of the vintage bikes you’ll find these days are modern classics. Adaptions of the early years when these bikes were finding their feet (wheels). Slightly more rounded for aerodynamics, these bikes also FOCUS on certain practicalities such as a longer seat for secondary riders, front and rear fenders and a larger front light. They’re still beautiful bikes, combining various elements from all the other vintage bikes to give that classic motorcycle look.
Even the earliest scramblers, like Honda’s CL350, weren’t exactly gnarly off-roaders. Instead, they were meant to be able to smoothly transition from pavement to dirt or gravel. And that is the criteria used to generate this list.
To start, the Desert Sled has more ground clearance and suspension travel than the standard Scrambler, Jalopnik reports, thanks to adjustable KYB suspension. The Scrambler has about 5” of travel, while the Desert Sled has just under 8”. Ducati also strengthened the bike’s swingarm and frame, according to Revzilla, and gave the Desert Sled a reinforced handlebar, mudguards, and skid plate. In addition, the Desert Sled also gets some proper off-road tires.
In terms of performance, the Desert Sled gets the standard Ducati Scrambler engine, an 803cc V-twin (or L-twin, in Ducati terms) making 75 HP and 50 lb-ft. The Desert Sled’s mods do make it heavier than the standard version: the former weighs 456 lbs, the latter 417. However, the modifications do indeed make the Desert Sled an honest scrambler.
Although Jalopnik reports the bike is most comfortable in the sand or on dirt roads, rather than over rocks, Revzilla found the Desert Sled able to tackle muddy forest trails, too. That being said, if you do intend to take it off-road, Revzilla recommends fitting a few Ducati accessories, like fold-away mirrors and shift lever, as well as aluminum footpegs.
Cycle World reports that Triumph “arguably has the deepest roots” in the scrambler style. And, as its latest Scramblers show, the British company has a firm understanding of what made the style appealing.
How Do I Choose The Right Motorcycle For Me?
When choosing a motorcycle, it’s important to consider your needs and preferences. If you’re looking for a versatile motorcycle that can be ridden both on and off-road, a scrambler might be the right choice for you.
If you’re mostly interested in style and speed, then a cafe racer might be more your type. Ultimately, the best motorcycle for you is the one that best suits your needs and riding style.
Cafe racers and scramblers are two popular types of motorcycles. While they may look similar at first glance, there are some key differences between these two bikes. Scramblers are designed for off-road riding, while cafe racers are built for speed and agility.
So, if you’re wondering whether a scrambler or cafe racer is right for you, it all comes down to what you’re looking for in a motorcycle.
Can You Buy A Scrambler Without Converting A Motorcycle?
This is a question that we get asked a lot, and unfortunately, there is no easy answer. In order to buy a scrambler without converting a motorcycle, you would need to find one that has been manufactured as such.
Some manufacturers like Ducati offer models that are already pre-configured as scramblers, but they come at a significantly higher price tag.
If you’re set on getting a scrambler without converting a motorcycle, your best bet would be to search for used models from Ducati or other manufacturers.
Otherwise, if you’re willing to put in the work to convert a motorcycle into a scrambler, there are many different ways to go about it. You can find plenty of resources and guidance online from other enthusiasts who have gone through the process themselves.
Scrambler conversions can be very rewarding projects, and in the end, you’ll have a unique bike that is exactly what you want it to be.
Can You Buy A Cafe Racer Without Converting A Motorcycle?
If you’re looking to buy a cafe racer, but don’t want to go through the hassle of converting a motorcycle, you’re in luck. There are plenty of cafe racers on the market that is ready to ride right out of the box.
Triumph Thruxton R
The Triumph Thruxton R is one of the best factory-built cafe racers on the market. It’s powered by a 1200cc Bonnie twin engine that produces 97 horsepower and 82 lb-ft of torque.
The bike also features premium suspension and Brembo brakes, making it capable of handling any road or track condition you might encounter.
Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer
The Ducati Scrambler Cafe Racer is another great option for those looking for a turn-key cafe racer. It’s powered by an 803cc L-twin engine that produces 75 horsepower and 50 lb-ft of torque. The bike also features adjustable Showa suspension, Brembo brakes, and Pirelli tires.
Moto Guzzi V7 III Racer
The Moto Guzzi V7 III Racer is a beautiful cafe racer that’s powered by a 744cc V-twin engine that produces 52 horsepower and 44 lb-ft of torque. The bike features Ohlins forks, Brembo brakes, and Pirelli tires. If you’re looking for a true classic cafe racer, the V7 III Racer is a great option.
BMW R nineT Racer
The BMW R nineT Racer is a modern take on the classic cafe racer. It’s powered by a 1170cc boxer twin engine that produces 110 horsepower and 86 lb-ft of torque. The bike features premium suspension, Brembo brakes, and Metzeler tires.
If you’re looking for a high-performance cafe racer, the R nineT Racer should be at the top of your list.
Yamaha XSR900 Abarth
The Yamaha XSR900 Abarth is a special edition cafe racer that’s based on the popular XSR900 platform. It’s powered by an 847cc inline three-cylinder engine that produces 115 horsepower and 65 lb-ft of torque.
The bike features Ohlins forks, Brembo brakes, and Pirelli tires. If you’re looking for a unique cafe racer, the XSR900 Abarth should definitely be on your radar.
These are just a few of the great factory-built cafe racers that are currently available on the market. So if you’re in the market for a new bike, but don’t want to go through the hassle of converting a motorcycle, one of these options should definitely be at the top of your list.
What Are Great Out Of The Box Scrambler Style Motorcycles?
If you’re looking for a scrambler-style motorcycle that’s ready to ride right out of the box, here are our favorites:
Triumph Bonneville T120 Black
The Triumph Bonneville T120 Black is a great option for those looking for a turn-key scrambler. It’s powered by a 1200cc Bonnie twin engine that produces 97 horsepower and 82 lb-ft of torque.
The bike also features premium suspension and Brembo brakes, making it capable of handling any road or track condition you might encounter.
Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled
The Ducati Scrambler Desert Sled is another great option for those looking for a factory-built scrambler. It’s powered by an 800cc L-twin engine that produces 75 horsepower and 50 lb-ft of torque. The bike also features adjustable Showa suspension, Brembo brakes, and Pirelli tires.
Moto Guzzi V85 TT
The Moto Guzzi V85 TT is a beautiful scrambler that’s powered by a 1200cc V-twin engine that produces 100 horsepower and 80 lb-ft of torque. The bike features Ohlins forks, Brembo brakes, and Pirelli tires. If you’re looking for a true classic scrambler, the V85 TT should be at the top of your list.
BMW R nineT Scrambler
The BMW R nineT Scrambler is a modern take on the classic scrambler. It’s powered by a 1170cc boxer twin engine that produces 110 horsepower and 86 lb-ft of torque. The bike features premium suspension, Brembo brakes, and Metzeler tires.
Cafe racers and scramblers are two popular types of motorcycles. They both have their own unique benefits that make them ideal for different riders. So, if you’re wondering whether a scrambler or cafe racer is right for you, it all comes down to what you’re looking for in a motorcycle.
Do you want a bike that’s fast and fun to ride? Or one that can take you from the city to the trails? The choice is yours. Whichever type of bike you choose, be sure to do your research beforehand to ensure that you get the best motorcycle for your needs. Thanks for reading!
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